Scientific Practices or Scientific Method

Have you looked at the Scientific Practice from NGSS? Well, I have. In fact, I spent HOURS reading and working to understand these practices when I developed my dissertation. The expectations of the level of understanding and use of these practices at the middle school level is surprising and impressive. If you have not already checked out the progression of expectations from Kindergarten through High School, here is the link:Β NGSS Scientific Practices. You may be surprised at the depth your students need to get to for mastery.

How do these compare to “The Scientific Method” students have been taught for years? I asked my students to explore this with me and was excited by their responses. First of all, I have learned not to teach “The Scientific Method” (TSM) as it is not an accurate representation of what scientists actually do and how they do science in their work. The other problem is the implication of a single method for all of science and every investigation. This view limits students’ understanding of actual science work. That’s the short version. πŸ™‚

Of course, the students in my class have likely been taught TSM in every science class before mine. So, I address it. After listing their version of TSM, I had students compare and contrast this to NGSS SPs. This was a great exercise. Many of the practices have connection to steps in TSM. As such, students have familiarity with the concepts. However, the expectations for each SP are outlined and in depth! The students pointed this out and expressed appreciation for this. They were also able to recognize the SPs occur at multiple stages of an investigation, rather than a list of steps to follow.

Jumping ahead, when we finish an investigation, I ask students to write a report. Often, the format for this report looks an awful lot like the list of steps of TSM. I take time to explain to students the connections between what they do in their investigations and how I want that communicated in written form. I also explain that different audiences will have different requirements for the communication piece. I have not rewritten my lab report guidelines to match NGSS SPs because I don’t believe that is the intent of the SPs, and might actually be contrary.

What do you prefer – NGSS or TSM? What do you teach for science experiments? If TSM is so poo-pooed in current science education realms (University, PhD realms), then why do so many classrooms still have it posted on their walls? Just today I was sent an email soliciting me to buy an activity to teach The Scientific Method. Change is slow πŸ™‚

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